When I was in the third grade, this kid named Dennis knocked my books right out of my hand.
While the rest of my classmates laughed and our teacher scolded Dennis for his childish behavior, I went into the bathroom and cried because I was an uber sensitive little girl who was tired of being bullied.
When I got home and told my mom about what Dennis had done earlier that morning, she laughed and said, "sweetie, Dennis likes you."
Oh! I was fine with that answer, just like (I'm assuming) half the girls reading this right now who were told the same thing whenever a boy in class stole their stuff, yanked their pigtails, knocked books out of their hands or called them a loser.
Boys will be boys, right?
While I accepted this reasoning when I was nine years old, now, nearly 20 years later, I realize Dennis was really just an asshole who only did what he could get away with.
Our culture grew up believing that when a boy mistreated you, they really liked you deep down and this was their obnoxious way of telling you.
Because of this, those same boys grew up into men who followed the same suit.
Sure, not all of them grew up this way, but some of them turned into the fuckboys we know and don't love today.
They're the men who send dick pics that are unwarranted, the ones who make the same misogynist comments about a woman's body, the ones who can put girls onto a list ranking them by their level of hotness.
I have to wonder if how I was brought up played into how I ended up taking verbal abuse from my most recent ex.
He was the kind of guy who would always make me feel self-conscious about what I wore, the weight I put on and then somehow rationalize it by saying he still would be OK with the "flaws."
He never said he was OK with it — he just but said he would be OK with it, one day, if he had no choice or right after we had kids before my body "bounced back."
His words would sting me, and I'd find myself running toward the bathroom crying like I did when I was in middle school.
What guys like that did was verbal abuse. Could a kid know that? Maybe not. But who should know it — and who should teach their children about it, for that matter — are the parents.
I understand kids are cruel. Believe me, I've seen it in person.
But if you're a parent, you need to instill in your children that if they like someone, they should tell them instead of make a group of girls accustomed to vile treatment.
If you see your child belittle another, you intervene. That's one way of stopping the cycle once those children become adults.
I used to believe that when a man was mean to me, it meant he liked me. Now I know that is the furthest from the truth.
The right man will nurture you. He will compliment you. He will help you carry your books instead of whacking them to the ground.
We need to stop teaching our daughters to expect any less than that kind of treatment when they're little.
Negging is a very real style of verbal abuse, and we need to stop making excuses for it.
When I have a daughter and she comes home to tell me some kid yanked her pigtails, I won't tell her he likes her.
Because my daughter will be too good for assholes.